Move to ascertain reasons for hiring foreigners in RMG sector

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 24 Aug 2017, 01:16:44

Move to ascertain reasons for hiring foreigners in RMG sector

Local replacements are also under study to stop outflow of $5.0b a year
Monira Munni

A coordinated move is ripe to ascertain reasons for hiring foreigners and their areas of work in Bangladesh's apparel sector and prepare their local replacements to plug foreign-exchange outflows.  

Sources said the foreign-aided agenda for manpower transformation in the country's main export industry follows reports that minimum US$5.0 billion in total flows out of the country annually in addition to job losses for the locals.

The Centre of Excellence for Bangladesh Apparel Industry (CEBAI) is conducting a research titled 'Employment of Expatriates and its Alternatives in the RMG Sector of Bangladesh' under this move, they added.

The study will also focus on requisite measures to minimize the number of foreign expatriates and areas of training and courses to generate skilled manpower to fill the gap, they said.   

"In July, we signed an agreement with the Faculty of Business Studies of Dhaka University to conduct the study which is expected to be done by next month," Md Atiqul Islam, president of the CEBAI, told The Financial Express.

CEBAI is a joint initiative of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Government of Sweden, Swedish fashion retailer H&M and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

"We only know some $5.0 billion has been annually spent for foreign employees but no details how many expatriates in which positions are currently working in the sector," he said, adding that there is no study on the foreigners working in this sector.

Considering the impact of the outward remittance by these employees on the economy and loss of employment, a series of researches are needed. This will help in identifying the areas expatriates are working and analysing the reasons for hiring them by the employers, he said.

The study findings would help in formulating policy and strategic interventions regarding minimising the number of alien employees in the country's readymade garment (RMG) sector, Mr Islam viewed.

It would also suggest policy recommendations on the areas of training needs which could be filled up through offering courses at the country's educational institutions, CEBAI chief executive officer Aftab Uddin Ahmad said.

The other recommendations would also include two short courses with duration of four months each on design, contents and the marketing of those courses, he added.

Though some 10,000 foreigners are registered with the Board of Investment (BOI), Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) and Non-Government Organisation (NGO) Affairs Bureau, some 500,000 are working in Bangladesh, according to the study proposition.

In 2015, these foreign employees took home nearly $5 billion in salaries and allowances. Many of them work in the RMG sector, it added.

The foreign remittances sent by Bangladeshi expatriates had been hovering over $14 billion annually since the fiscal year 2012-2013, which crossed $15-billion mark in 2014-2015, according to official data.

Industry-insiders said foreign nationals, mostly from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, South Korea and some European and African countries, are working in Bangladesh. Most of them are engaged in RMG, IT and other manufacturing industries.

Three government agencies - the Board of Investment (BoI), currently Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), NGO Affairs Bureau and Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) - issue work permits for the foreigners.

However, there is no integrated list of foreigners working in Bangladesh for a lack of coordination among the government agencies concerned.

According to the industry people, foreign employees are holding plum posts like merchandiser, quality controller, designer, marketing officer and technician at washing and dyeing units mostly in buying houses and liaison offices.

If the country could employ its own skilled employees in the occupations foreigners currently working in, a huge amount of foreign currencies could be saved while employment for local people could be created, they added.

Another study namely 'Alternatives to Gas Shortage: A Competitive Strategic Option for Bangladesh Apparel Sector' is also being conducted by the CEBAI, said Mr Islam.

Explaining the objective of this survey Mr Ahmad said it would assess the present consumption of gas by various industrial sectors, future demand for gas, estimation of supply status, pricing strategy for next five years.

It would also help in understanding the contribution of gas while determining costs in the apparel sector.

Overall, it is focused on chalking out strategy to help the apparel sector to be competitive on the world market, he added.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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